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Scheduled Giving Hearts Day donations suggest we haven't lost our heart for giving

Apparently, the pandemic and trials of the last year have made North Dakotans more generous, as Giving Hearts Day organizers report that scheduled gifts are up a whopping 62% from this time last year.

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FARGO -- When times are tough, there are two schools of thought on human generosity.

The cynical one is that people become more curmudgeonly and miserly and focus on their own immediate tribe and survival.

A more hopeful, Mr. Rogers-style view is that adversity makes people more aware of our shared humanity and causes them to give even more.

The organizers of Giving Hearts Day hope local folks are channeling more Mr. Rogers these days.

So far, numbers suggest they might be right.

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“For now, the number of scheduled gifts is up 62% over last year. It’s so exciting!” says Amber DeKrey, director of the annual, 24-hour fundraising event for 500 charities in North Dakota and northwest Minnesota.

Giving Hearts Day, held Feb. 11 this year, has helped charities raise more than $90 million since its first event in 2008.

Besides the old adage that bad times bring out the best in people, this year’s Giving Hearts Day has also benefited from several factors:

  • GHD spokesperson Josh Duhamel , who is wildly popular among North Dakotans for his Minot roots and ongoing boosterism of the state. “Josh volunteered his time and talent to be in some of our ads,” DeKrey says. “It’s always neat when you have a celebrity, especially someone who has such strong North Dakota roots, be an advocate.”

  • The introduction of a sweepstakes for all donors, which will include shiny, new prizes like a 2021 Chevy Silverado 1500 truck donated by Gate City Bank ; a $1,000 gift card from Catalyst Medical Center & Clinical Spa , a home gym set donated by PRx , a Specialized Rockhopper mountain bike donated by Vision Bank and a $250 gift card from Scheels .

  • A more inclusive donation structure that makes it possible for individuals to donate volunteer hours or new/gently used items as requested by participating nonprofits. DeKrey clarifies that Giving Hearts Day will not serve as a drop-off point for donated items. Instead, prospective donors can check out what is needed by going to www.givingheartsday.org , searching for the organization they hope to help and then checking that nonprofit's page to see what items and volunteer opportunities are requested.

Due to this more populist, small-donor approach, GHD officials hope to generate 75,000 donations, as opposed to the 35,000 Giving Hearts donations last year.

Dakota Medical Foundation and Impact Foundation Executive Director Pat Traynor (fourth from left) stands with business representatives Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018, on the eve of Giving Hearts Day. Emily Driscoll / The Forum
Dakota Medical Foundation and Impact Foundation Executive Director Pat Traynor (fourth from left) stands with business representatives Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018, on the eve of Giving Hearts Day. Emily Driscoll / The Forum

“That has been one of the biggest pivots for Giving Hearts Day,” DeKrey says. “We want to widen that generosity scope and be very inclusive and invite so many more people to give. We want to stand for kindness and generosity and making those connections. Honestly, with COVID, we as a community are in so need of that connection right now.”

Likewise, nonprofits are so in need of funding help. While charities with obvious ties to COVID-19 relief - such as organizations that provide health care or feed the hungry - are doing fairly well, others that offer crucial, non-pandemic-related services are struggling, according to the national news site Vox.com .

Vox reports some 1 million nonprofit workers in the U.S. have lost their jobs to the pandemic. Locally, we’ve seen 280 statewide employees lose their jobs due to the recent shutdown of 102-year-old nonprofit Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota.

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“Absolutely, with COVID, it’s been really tough,” DeKrey says. “We’re seeing in-person fundraising events are not happening. The need for donations and funding for programs is really critical and also, when we think how our nonprofit organizations have needed to pivot and invest in new technology to be able to offer program services, it all comes at a cost. Now more than ever, our nonprofits are needing us to help.”

GHD organizers also hope the added carrot of sweepstakes prizes will help spark more engagement and excitement for the day. DeKrey says it’s the brainchild of Pat Traynor , the executive director of the Dakota Medical Foundation , a Giving Hearts Day co-sponsor, who has wanted to add a sweepstakes component for years.

Individuals are entered into the GHD sweepstakes by doing at least one of the following: scheduling a donation or giving one on Giving Hearts Day, pledging to volunteer, pledging to donate a new or used item, or filling out a testimonial before Feb. 11 at GivingHeartsDay.org/Sweepstakes.

To qualify, people must be at least 18 and from Minnesota or North Dakota. Winners will be drawn at 10 p.m. Feb. 11.

To learn more about participating in this year’s event, go to www.GivingHeartsDay.org .

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